In a graph showing data on people using the Internet in Korea, Japan, and China, a writer wrote:

The line graph compares the percentage of people in three countries who used the Internet between 1999 and 2009.

The graph shows the percentages in three countries, so I wonder why he didn't use the plural form here.

In a different sample essay, but very similar in question style, he wrote the participation rates of ...

Why is his choice of singulars and plurals different from time to time?

  • 1
    It could be careless inconsistency, or the writer noticed the error in the first, and decided not to repeat it, or it was a typing error. Mar 19 at 9:20
  • 1
    Thanks for your response. The thing is, I've actually seen people using both plural and singular in this kind of situation, so it's hard for non-native speakers like me to decide. :< Mar 19 at 11:03
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    You should note that one compares multiple things - you can't compare one percentage, so the plural is definitely required in the case of the description of the graph. You should note that 'sample essays' can be of doubtful quality. Mar 19 at 11:16
  • 2
    You want "The line graph compares the percentages of people in three countries who used the Internet between 1999 and 2009"? It helps to be explicit in the question.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 19 at 12:02
  • 2
    The quotation seems fine to me. Example from Pew: "the percentage of Germans, French, Spanish and Indonesians expressing positive views of the U.S. increased by at least 25 percentage points". Population Health Metrics "The estimated percentage of circumcised males in each country and territory varies considerably." I don't have a detailed grammatical explanation: "fraction" or "number" could also be used in the singular.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 19 at 12:11


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